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Sustainable textiles start-up Fiquetex wins Oxford University competition

Sustainable textiles start-up Fiquetex wins Oxford University competition

Oxford University postgraduate student, Gabriel Moreno, was recognised in the All-Innovate competition for his 100 % sustainable and biodegradable textile company working to combat pollution and animal cruelty.

An Oxford University student has been awarded Best Postgraduate Idea for his eco-friendly textile company, Fiquetex, which aims to combat pollution and landfill waste created by unsustainable textile production.

Fiquetex holds the patent for producing 100 per cent sustainable, biodegradable, and renewable fabric and leather made from the Colombian Fique plant and natural rubber latex. The start-up will launch its "Fique Fabric" and "Fique Vegan Leather" for industry use worldwide from July this year.

The All-Innovate competition is a search for the most creative and socially impactful ideas from all 24,000 University of Oxford students across its 33 colleges. The competition is hosted by the Oxford Foundry - an entrepreneurship hub established in 2017 by the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. The Oxford Foundry aims to build a new generation of ventures that better society and nurture more ethical leaders who put people and the planet first.

Fiquetex was recognised by a panel of expert judges for its socio-environmental benefits helping to create a greener planet.

Gabriel Moreno with samples
Gabriel Moreno with samples

The issue of climate change and finding ways to live more sustainably and ethically is one of the biggest challenges facing modern society. With research indicating that we use two million plastic bags per minute worldwide and that by 2050, there will be more plastic bags than fish in the sea, it is clear that urgent action is needed now.

Gabriel Moreno, who is studying for his Masters in Latin American Economics at Oxford University, and his father, Alex, who has a science background and is a fellow of the royal academy of engineering, wanted to help.

The father and son team decided to create a fully sustainable textile alternative to materials such as plastics and synthetic leathers. They spent five years researching and designing their Fique fabrics, which they claim uses just 10 per cent of the energy needed to make the same quantity in Nylon.

In developing and patenting the Fiquetex process, Alex and Gabriel Moreno worked with the Royal Academy of Engineering in London to perfect their disruptive, innovative process.

The competition judges were impressed by the stylish and durable Fique fabric, which can be used to make carrier bags, packaging material, scouring pads and cut flower wrapping as an alternative to the current unsustainable plastic alternatives.

Gabriel and Alex will now produce the Fique Vegan Leather, which is adaptable for all industries. The production plant will be based in Medellin, Colombia, close to the raw materials and farmers who harvest them. Gabriel will complete his masters and then focus on business development and marketing, including distributing the materials, for example, to fashion retailers searching for green alternatives.

Fiquetex's unique and patented circular economy process means that production will benefit the environment and broader communities. This includes the local farmers who harvest the plant and the soil that will receive nutrients, as the Fique materials will biodegrade in just 100 days after being buried in the ground once their useful life is over. The Fique plant also absorbs Co2 when alive, further helping to reduce harmful emissions in the environment.

Alex Moreni at the Royal Academy of Engineering
Alex Moreni at the Royal Academy of Engineering. Image courtesy of Royal Academy of Engineering.

Fiquetex has received praise and attention from the vegan community as their Vegan Leather provides an alternative to animal skin and plastic waste that is damaging ocean life.

Gabriel, who successfully pitched the product, said that the award has given him further confidence in his start-up, adding that it is the right product at the right time. He continued by saying, "I've always been passionate about how we can live more sustainably today to secure a healthier and greener future for the planet.

"Companies, from H&M to Forest Green Rovers football club, are looking for new sustainable alternatives, and countries such as China and Canada are banning single-use plastics. We now have the environmentally friendly and economical solution the world needs".

Katy Clapham, Head of Skills and Training at the Oxford Foundry, shared the international panel's excitement at the project, who said: "The next step is to raise awareness of Fiquetex's eco-friendly alternatives."

Fiquetex will begin trading in July later this year. For more information visit the Fiquetex website or @fiquetex on all social media channels.